So I’m going to be completely honest. There’s times in my life where I feel like a complete mess. I don’t sleep well. I don’t eat enough. I’m listless, tired, cranky, and completely lacking in energy. Why does this happen?
Well, it starts with something small and seemingly inconsequential. Maybe I start feeling overworked. I work late into the night, then I stay up for another few hours playing video games. I go to bed at 3AM. My stupid body is always compelled to wake up around 8 for some reason, whether I get to bed at midnight or 3-4AM. Sometimes, I can’t fall asleep for hours, and still, like clockwork, my body wants to get up at 8AM. Sometimes I wake up after only four hours of sleep. You get the idea.
Last year, I moved into a new apartment with a few roommates. I just bought a futon, to save space in my new room. The futon, however, was somewhat uncomfortable, making it difficult to sleep through the night. I would wake up every hour or so and toss and turn. This went on for a few weeks.
Now, this whole not sleeping business screws everything up. I found it was impossible to be creative or productive. I found I was becoming punchy. Everything was suffering, from the quality of my work to my Smash game.
So this blog post is titled Resetting The Neutral for a reason. In fighting games, if you’re getting attacked, it’s sometimes best to run back and go back to square one, where neither you nor your opponent is attacking, so you can approach again and once again engage in combat. This is called resetting the neutral. It can help secure wins in fighting games. This concept can help us so much in our day-to-day lives as well. After all, we can’t be expected to be productive and happy if our physical and mental health is in a state of disarray.
There was one day I literally only got 2 hours of sleep, after several nights of poor, spotty sleep. The last straw was trying to relax with some Smash by going online, and getting my ass kicked (not to mention getting taunted at every moment) by an opponent I should have been able to destroy if I had my wits about me. From there, it kind of hit me. Yeah, I was doing my work, but was it really the best work I could have done? Why was I feeling like complete and utter garbage?
I knew there was an issue. I was getting wailed on by life, and I needed to reset the neutral.
First, I took a look at my bed. Feeling sore from yet another night of poor sleep, I realized my bed was just plain uncomfortable. So I got a few mattress covers, and then took the best nap of my life.
It was one small thing. The bed not being comfortable. But that small thing caused a ripple effect throughout my entire wellbeing. After spending that day just napping and taking a mental break from work and Smash, I found I started to feel a bit better. I also made time to go outside and walk around- there’s a beautiful park by my apartment, so why not get outside, right?
After a night or two of good sleep and a little relaxation, I was finally able to get work done (and get paid, which always makes me feel good). I soon got myself back on track. Around this time, I was in talks to take on the teaching position at Bloomfield college. Thankfully, after getting more sleep and taking better care of myself, I was able to interview for the position confidently and get the job. Now I’ve been there for a year, and I’m getting ready to start my 3rd semester there. Thank you, sleep!
In addition, I was offered work on my very first VR project around that time too. Having felt much better in general, I was able to go into the city to work on site, work well with the team, and deliver amazing results with a quick turnaround. That project, Oceans VR, went on to be accepted into the New York Film Festival, which is amazing! I don’t think I would have done nearly as good a job on the audio if I was still feeling like garbage. Again, thank you, sleep!
And my Smash game? Well, I got back on track with that too, and got back to kicking butt. Watch out!
Anyway, when life gets hectic, and when you feel run down, it’s important to try to take a step back and do a few things to get yourself on track. Or as I mentioned before, step back from your opponent and reset the neutral so you can approach again (and increase your chances of winning the match!). I don’t want to sound preachy by any means. As I mentioned before, sometimes I’m a total mess! But I still think we all need to keep these things in mind:
Prioritize + Strategize
In Smash, it’s important to develop a strategy for success. You definitely have a much higher chance of winning if you go into a match with a strong strategy, as opposed to someone who just presses buttons. I could talk more about Smash strategies, but that’s not really the point of this blogpost.
When you feel like you have about a thousand things to do (this is me at any given moment in time), it helps to write down everything you have to get done. First, write down everything you need to do, stream of consciousness. Then comes the fun part, prioritizing. Some things have deadlines that are sooner than others. Some things can get done in 20 minutes, others might need more of your time.
When writing down what you have to do, think about how long it will take you to do those things and write that down too. Knowing about how long something will take will make planning your day/week/month a lot easier. You’ll be able to figure out about how long you can dedicate to accomplishing a task. You’ll also be able to schedule things based on concrete times of day that things need to get done. Got a 5PM deadline? Get that work done earlier in the day. Have an 11AM call? That’s an easy one to figure out.
A quick protip is to make sure you allow yourself more time than you think you need. Don’t overestimate how much you can get done. Even if you are the most efficient human being on the planet, there will always be distractions. Plan for that!
But before you plan your work, you need to do this next thing…
Schedule time to sleep and eat a healthy meal
I think it’s wonderful that people want to do so much. We want to be the best composers, artists, programmers, Smash players, etc that we can be. But greatness starts with self care. Like it or not, your body needs rest. At the very least, you need to get some decent sleep from time to time. I sometimes love working late into the night, especially if I’m inspired, but then I realize that I need time to recharge my batteries the next day. So I make an effort to make time for a nap, or at least a little time to lay down and play videogames or read.
Not only do I at least try to get a decent amount of sleep, I make sure I eat healthy as well, at least when I can. After all, I’m not above polishing off the occasional Philly cheesesteak (and then immediately regretting it, but not regretting the tastiness).
Cooking healthy meals from time to time actually doesn’t take a lot of work. If you put a little effort into researching a few recipes (do this in lieu of browsing Facebook one day), you’ll find something that’s simple and not very time-consuming to make. Alternatively, you can spend maybe one or two hours a week cooking, but cook enough for several meals. My current favorite “quick and easy” recipe is salmon- cook on each side for about 3 min, then finish in the oven for 5 min. You can even season it however you want- it’s always a great, healthy meal that I can make in about 15 min.
On the flip side, I do really love that Mexican joint in my neighborhood. Sometimes Grubhub and I are just BFFs, man. Sometimes, it’s just more time-efficient to order food… or sometimes you don’t want to cook. I get you, like how Grubhub gets me. But it’s give and take. If I order from Grubhub one night, I make sure I cook the next night. I force myself to make the time for it because I know healthy eating makes me more energized to work more effectively. Also I get alarmed when I start getting like 5 emails a day from Grubhub. Stop being so clingy, Grubhub!
My heart goes out to people who feel like they can’t take care of themselves. It really does. But the truth is that you have to make self-care a priority. Yeah, we all have to work long hours, or we have school and that takes up a lot of time. We have a lot of things going on in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes we can’t get the sleep that we need.
This happens to me a lot- sometimes I get wrapped up in 40 million things. Getting distracted is very easy for me as well. But you need time to yourself. Something I have been trying is to make that time for myself a priority, and then scheduling time to work around it. Whether you’re freelance or you work a full time job, you can find at least a little time somewhere in your day. And if you can’t, make the time. You’ll be surprised how much time you get back when you reduce your mindless Facebook browsing (something I’ve had to learn to do).
For example, I’m working on this blogpost. But I know that at around 6 o’clock today, I’m going to go outside and grill up some chicken for an hour. It gives me time away from my computer, my work, and gives me some much needed time in the sun. Plus it also helps me knock out a few of my meals for the week- so that hour spent is efficient in more ways than one!
So please, please schedule some time to yourself to relax, to cook a healthy meal, to get a few extra hours of sleep. You have the time. It’s just a matter of finding it. If you make it a priority, you will find the time. Basically, something is throwing you off from getting that extra bit of rest, or having some time to yourself. Take time to identify one thing that is throwing you off from getting enough rest/eating right, and make the change. Something as small as adding a comfortable mattress cover can make all the difference.
Always take care of yourself. We all slip up sometimes and neglect sleep/proper nutrition. And sadly, that sometimes leads to periods of constantly feeling like trash. And that’s when it gets bad. The good news is that you can get back on track if you identify exactly what is going wrong, and then take the proper steps to fix it if you can help it. For me last year, it was all going back to not getting a good amount of sleep, and this was because of my uncomfortable bed. Hopefully this post helps you identify something small that’s negatively effecting your wellbeing, so you can fix it and at least feel a little more energized and ready to take on your work!
Hopefully you can schedule time for self-care, starting by identifying where you can make a change that will help you get more rest or eat better. As always, let me know how you plan to make taking care of yourself a priority from now on over on Twitter.